Beijing Opera Costumes

Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication of Character and Culture, by Alexandra B. Bonds, is the first in-depth English-language book focused exclusively on the costumes of Jingju, the highest form of stage arts in China. This comprehensive volume provides both theory and analysis of the costumes and the method of their selection for the roles as well as technical information on embroidery, patterns, and construction. Extensive descriptions illuminate the use of colors and surface images derived from historical dress and modified for the stage. Details on makeup, hairstyles, and dressing techniques present a complete view of the Jingju performer from head to toe.

“This book is a very detailed and thorough examination of costuming (including make-up) in traditional Beijing opera as practiced today. The author has combined her expertise in costume design in general with extensive fieldwork and consultation in China. Because of the highly developed role-type system in Beijing opera and the premium put on visually distinguishing these role types on stage, costuming and make-up in Beijing opera are simultaneously very complicated, very full of meaning, and very worth paying attention to. This book, with its ample illustrations and clear structure, is an excellent guide to the symbolic systems used to differentiate characters on the Beijing opera stage, and, given the comparative lack in Beijing opera of scenery on the one hand and emphasis on the actor on the other, it could also be said to represent a guide to the visual world of Beijing opera in general. It is the only book of its kind in English, and it is very hard to conceive of it being surpassed any time soon.” —David Rolston, University of Michigan

April 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-2956-8 / $50.00 (CLOTH)